A young boy holds up a 200-year old first edition of a book about the American Revolution.
Two complete strangers, one from Virginia and the other from Montana, discover a common ancestor.
A man becomes emotional as he reads about a battle in the American Revolution—a battle his ancestor fought and died in.
These moments of discovery all happened at the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Genealogical Research Library. The library is dedicated to connecting its patrons to the past, whether it be the nation’s past or their own past—or both.
SAR Genealogical Research Library
Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the SAR Genealogical Research Library is part of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR). The organization began in 1876, one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Although members of NSSAR are those who can prove direct descendancy from someone who fought in the American Revolution, the library is open to the public.
One misconception is that you can use this library only to research the American Revolution or an ancestor. However, as library director Joe Hardesty said, “You can research all you want to do or have time for.”
What matters most to Hardesty is that patrons are given the opportunities to understand their family history or United States history in more personal, meaningful ways. The library provides several resources to do just that, including a collection of materials that are as much historical as they are genealogical.
The Marquis de Lafayette Collection
The SAR archives include 64 rolls of microfilm of correspondence, notebooks, writings, speeches, and other records pertaining to the Marquis de Lafayette, a French statesman who became a major general in the Continental Army.
The George Rogers Clark Collection
George Rogers Clark was a major during the Revolutionary War. This collection includes approximately 85,000 images of original documents dated from January 1778 through November 1834.
Along with these special collections, the library displays the original 1774 Articles of Association, one of many important documents that led up to the Revolutionary War.
The library also has several rare first-edition biographies of George Washington and histories of the American Revolution. With these rare resources, the library is a great place for anyone wanting to research and write the next biography of George Washington or a history of the American Revolution.
“We are not just a genealogical library. We are truly a history research collection as well,” Hardesty said.
The library’s collection of colonial-era newspapers on microfilm (ranging from 1760 to 1820) is yet another window to the past that patrons have access to.
“You can read a newspaper of the day your ancestor was alive and walking the streets in Boston. Their life just comes alive!” Hardesty said.
At the SAR Genealogical Research Library, Patrons can use a number of premium research sites to help them with their genealogy. The library is also an affiliate library with FamilySearch, giving it access to millions of records available only at family history centers or FamilySearch affiliate libraries.
“More to the Story”
According to Hardesty, it’s not uncommon to hear a “Yippee!” bouncing off the walls of the SAR Genealogical Library as another patron makes a research breakthrough. As the library director, Hardesty makes it a personal mission to give researchers ideas and information that can help them break through their brick walls.
“It might be an idea they never thought of or a resource that they never knew existed before. I pull it up, dust it off, and when it works, they’re just giddy with joy,” Hardesty said.
For Hardesty, family history is more than just finding the names, dates, and places. “There is more to the story,” he said.
“There’s a difference between being just a genealogist and gathering facts and the interpretation of those facts in a historical and social and economic context,” Hardesty said. “That’s what turns you into a family historian.”
The Sons of the American Revolution Genealogical Research Library is located on 809 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky. The library is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on the third Saturday of each month from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information, visit the library’s website or call (502) 589-1776.